Halloween 2020 IF,  Interactive Fiction

Halloween I.F – “Final Call” – Day 12

[Please read the Instructions before jumping in]

A dedication to a Lord isn’t something that should be done without thought behind it, and is complicated even more now by Lucien pretending to be Shuni.

Of course, Lucien pretending to be Shuni is something he has already dedicated to Lord Crow—at least in his heart, even if he can’t announce it out loud. They’ve done it so Shuni can benefit from Lord Crow, so Lord Crow can be intrigued by their choices, so they can together present a different play to Lord Crow…

But it means he can’t just decide who to dedicate the duel scene to without considering who Shuni would dedicate it to, as he’s currently filling Shuni’s shoes. Certainly, Lord Crow is again an easy option, since Lucien already knows Shuni is interested in Lord Crow. But that’s what Shuni wants, not necessarily what Shuni would do. And Shuni already told Lucien once that he prefers to spread the dedications around during the performance, to not leave a lord out.

There’s something else he has to consider, too: if it would upset Lord Crow to be shunned? Lucien is sure that Lord Crow must have already figured out the deception, and he doesn’t know how Lord Crow would react to his dedicating it to someone else. And yet—Lucien can’t think it would offend him. That’s why he agreed to this plan in the first place, isn’t it? Backing out halfway through might even be more offensive, since it would show a lack of commitment to the role, to the game.

The best thing would be to dedicate it to another Lord, then. And who knows—given the things he’s been hearing, and the strange cracked and empty landscape of his dreams, maybe having Lord Vine’s attention is a good idea.

Katarin has finished Revelle’s shouted speech at Logos, and he sneers, raising his sword. “Oh, you speak big words now, Lady,” he says. “But I’ll best you. To first blood! Whoever’s blood first hits this dirt, may it water the flowers and blossom new beginnings.” That last is said lewdly, with a thrust of his hips, implying the underlying nature of Logos’s desire.

They fight; it’s choreographed, and while he hasn’t gone through Shuni’s steps before, he finds he’s doing it preternaturally well. He’s watched them often enough, he supposes, that he’s managed to memorize it without even trying.

Logos is stabbed in the arm, and withdraws, glowering. Either can be the winner of this duel, depending on how the audience is reacting; Katarin is in fine form today, and the crowd was clearly rooting for Revelle. He snarls Logos’s threats to have her eventually, one way or another, and limps off.

Soon enough, it moves on to the murder scene; it’s played differently, this time, and Arcane slays Logos—dedicating it, of course, to Lord Crow. Lucien is sort of relieved; the hundreds of potential scene combinations after this are only ones he’s practiced as Arcane, so his learning them well largely relied on Arcane’s survival. He’d sat in on rehearsals, of course, so he could have muddled through if things had gone differently, but he isn’t sure he could manage two layers of roles past this point in the play.

He returns to the green room, and although he’s currently alone there, he tries to think of what Shuni does in his down time. There’s a book he’s been reading, Lucien remembers, and goes to pick it up; he’s launched into a story in progress where he doesn’t know anybody’s motivations or backstory, but reading it at least won’t raise any doubts from any other cast members who come and go.

And it’s just as well; Frederik comes in, and seems to hover around, trying to get his attention without demanding it, but Lucien has no idea about Frederik and Shuni’s relationship to each other, and keeps his nose in the book. He’s just pretending to read it at this point, lost in thought instead. He’s worried about Shuni. After the strange things Katarin was saying, and her implication that other people might be having dreams as well, Shuni may have more going on than Lucien previously knew.

He wants to help if he can, and decides that he’ll make sure to talk to Shuni about all of this.

Finally, the play is done; he is called down for his bows, and as they’re hustled off stage after, Lucien catches Shuni’s arm. “I need to talk to you soon,” he whispers. “Alone.”

Shuni gives him a slightly wild expression. “Sure,” he says, “But later, okay? I can come by your place around dawn? I want to go out and see if Lord Crow does show up.”

That’s fair enough, Lucien supposes, letting Shuni’s sleeve slide through his fingers and staring after him. From Shuni’s perspective, that’s what they’ve done this for. But… Lucien wants to see Lord Crow too, and if Lord Crow has figured out the switch, it might be either of them that Lord Crow approaches tonight. Or, if Shuni gets rejected, might he not want comfort?

He’s watching Shuni hurriedly get out of costume and into Lucien’s old clothes, almost hindering the costumers with his attempts to help, when Katarin also comes up on him. “We should talk more,” she says, smiling, seeming more relaxed now the play’s done. “Want to go get a drink again?”

Lucien holds his arms out, letting the costumers work at stripping him out of Logos’s clothes, and hesitates. He still sort of wants to wait for Shuni or Lord Crow. And also… what if Lord Vine wants to talk to him now? Sure, it isn’t common for any Lord to call someone aside, of course, but after last night, what if they do choose to? Could Lucien afford to miss that chance?

Still, he is curious about what Katarin had been asking about, and he can probably reveal the switch once they’ve left the theatre, since they’re doing this only for the one night. If he’s himself again, he may be able to talk to her honestly.

But he knows he can really only pick one option tonight: Go out separately in the hopes of attracting one of the Lords, follow Shuni to see what happens with Lord Crow and comfort him in case of rejection, or go with Katarin.

[Please leave suggestions for Lucien in the comments.]

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